Predictive analytics has been used in cybersecurity for a long time, and now it’s being applied to human behavior, says Dr. Richard Ford, chief scientist at Forcepoint. TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson met with Ford to discuss how computer security software company Forcepoint uses predictive analytics to help businesses anticipate attacks and hacks.

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Predictive analytics works by using past history and current events to figure out where something is going. In the past, this concept has been applied to computers and websites to figure out when malware is about to strike. Now, we’re at a point where we can apply it to people, Ford said.

“What you’re basically doing is ingesting pieces of user behavior, understanding them, and then try to see where they’re going so you can get out ahead of that threat,” he said.

Ford says there’s two ways to use the firm’s predictive system: the right way and the wrong way. The right way would be to look into the system because of a prediction you may have about a certain employee. The wrong way would be assuming that prediction means an employee is guilty, and viewing that person negatively.

“People don’t understand how powerful being able to look just a little bit into the future is,” Ford said. “Even just being able to see into the future very dimly gives you a huge edge over your competition.”

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The system monitors external, as well as internal threats. For example, the system could predict if an employee is at high risk for leaving the company. Since there is a large potential of data theft at the point of employee departure, companies can use that prediction and take action to protect its data, or even improve its employee retention.

“I do see some hope in the future by leveraging technologies, like predictive analytics, to make us more dynamic in our responses to an emerging threat environment,” he said.

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